Since the name was first coined in 1999, the strategies and mechanics of eLearning have matured and evolved dramatically, but there are still some imperfections. From my experience in digital learning, there are three main areas for improvement.
Gamification presents educational content in the context of a game scenario in order to maximize user engagement, but it falls short in other areas. These fast-paced games are meant to combine information into interactive scenario-based learning platforms, but they can overspecialize on specific concepts, encouraging rote repetition instead of deeper understanding. Extreme pace in games can also limit learner retention. That being said, basic gamification does an excellent job at reviewing work and testing comprehension of previously taught material, and development is well underway for complex virtual reality games tackling real-world and ill-defined problems.
We all learn through different learning styles at varying paces. A ‘one-size-fits-all’ eLearning module puts everyone in the same box. For example, a company that has a uniform four week on-boarding process for new hires assumes that all new hires think the same and have the same learning speed. Some people read faster than others, some people retain information verbally rather than prescriptively from a book. A way to combat this pitfall is diversification. A good example of diversification is the multi-faceted resource we developed for the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario (ADO), which taught organizations how to become accessible. It provided content, anticipating the needs of persons with disabilities, across a variety of modalities: videos, podcasts, and interactive modules. This strategy benefits everyone by empowering individual learners’ strengths, as well as empowering persons with disabilities.
The flexibility digital learning provides is one of its greatest appeals. eLearning courses can eliminate the cost of transport to courses, the need for a live facilitator, and leave the schedule up to the learner with a pace that is completely self-driven. But it comes at a cost: person-to-person discussion. Some of the most effective learning comes from the ideas and questions that arise organically in the classroom. Digital learning provides alternative solutions (discussion boards, email chains, etc.) that serve to connect learners to a certain degree, but don’t train the same practical interpersonal skills. The optimizing strategy must incorporate the best of both modalities.
The potential limitations of eLearning have diverse solutions. Mastery of gamification and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach needs constant iteration and innovation, where problems of isolation seem inherent to the medium. It’s safe to say pros and cons are present in any strategy, but blended learning that distills the benefits exclusive to classroom learning and eLearning can allow us to maximize a resource’s success overall.
By Christopher Gunn
Chris Gunn is Learnography’s Business Development Manager. With a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Economics and a Master’s in Public Policy, he enjoys the thrill of combining theory and natural progressions in the economy with innovative thinking and learning principles. He is passionate about finding new ways for people to learn and is a longstanding advocate of information sharing and collaboration. In his spare time, Chris is into deadlifts, Nike sneakers, music festivals and basketball.